Reducing food waste with IoT

Guest Contributor Peter Mehring, CEO Zest Labs, 31 May 2018

With all the technological advances we’ve made, from self-driving cars to IoT-enabled personal assistants, it’s hard to understand why we still waste nearly 40% of the fresh food produced in the United States. Certainly, some of it can be chalked up to consumer carelessness — we routinely buy things, including food, that we end up throwing away. However, a close study of the numbers reveals that roughly half of food waste occurs at the consumer level, meaning the other half happens somewhere within the fresh food supply chain, between the grower or processor and the retailer. With all the technology available to us today, how can our food supply chain still be this inefficient?

The short answer is that technology, particularly IoT, has historically been underutilized in post-harvest agriculture. Yes, there are drones and irrigation monitors in preharvest agriculture, but when it comes to post-harvest agriculture, once product is picked or harvested, advanced technology hasn’t been broadly applied — yet.

In the world of post-harvest ag-tech, IoT sensor technology coupled with cloud-based analytics have the power to transform the fresh food supply chain by improving decision-making at every step and, as a result, dramatically reduce food waste. IoT sensors can transform a supply chain that still operates based on assumptions into one that operates based on the real-time, granular data that provides visibility as to how to truly optimize decision-making. By adopting a data-driven approach enabled by IoT and cloud analytics, growers, processors, distributors and retailers can address the hidden issues currently impacting the fresh food supply chain to reduce waste — and improve food safety and supply chain transparency as well.

Before examining how utilizing IoT can improve supply chain operations, it’s important to understand why it hasn’t done so already. Fresh food has traditionally not been very margin sensitive, so losses due to spoilage have been absorbed as a cost of doing business. Retail grocers and restaurants carried buffer stock to account for culling, and charged a premium for out-of-season products. With little financial motivation to improve supply chain efficiencies, retailers and restaurants invested in other strategies. However, in the last year, discounting has started to impact fresh food prices, as well as cost increases due to freight charges and overhead cost of supporting recent consumer delivery options (e.g., online shopping, click and collect, home delivery). With both price pressure and delivered costs increasing, there is now real interest to explore how technology can reduce fresh food waste and improve margins.

Over the past few decades, the time and distance our fresh food travels has increased from a few days to a more typical six to 10 days. This was a result of large retail grocers and restaurant chains wanting to buy from large suppliers who drove growing efficiencies by consolidating farms in preferred growing regions. While there has been a trend back to locally grown fresh food, it has not been significant in terms of volume. So, where strawberries were once locally grown, the variation in delivered shelf life from seven to 11 days was not a big deal. However, now that the bulk of strawberries are grown in California (summer time), they can travel six to eight days just to arrive on the store shelf — leaving little room for variations in shelf life. New processing techniques have improved the ideal strawberry shelf life to roughly 12 days, but in typical operations, the actual variation of delivered product is from seven to 12 days, as not all product is processed according to best practices. This variation leads to food waste due to unexpected early spoilage. The supply chain assumed all the product had the same consistent shelf life, and reflected that misperception with date labels. However, inconsistent processing leads to considerable variability that remains unaccounted for today.

This is where IoT can save the day. None of the issues impacting remaining freshness become actual issues if supply chain professionals know about them as they are happening. Remaining freshness is a function of product handling from field to shelf. An IoT sensor placed in each pallet of produce that monitors a wide range of variables, combined with cloud-based predictive analytics, can provide an up-to-the-minute snapshot of the product’s handling and accurately forecast its remaining freshness. If the IoT sensor detects a pallet has a temperature excursion, an alert can be sent in real time to proactively take action to minimize the impact on the freshness and quality. Further, if the data from the IoT sensor is analyzed to identify that a pallet has only eight days of shelf life instead of the desired 12, the supplier can modify the shipping decision to have the pallet routed locally instead of cross-country. This allows supply chain professionals to proactively manage based on real product data, rather than the current simplifying assumptions based on harvest date (assumes uniform processing) or visual inspection. Current visual freshness checks have been ineffective in reducing waste as visual freshness indicators only change in the very last days of remaining freshness, which is often too late to prevent waste. IoT sensors and cloud analytics provide product-level feedback to make improved decisions that avoid food waste.

There will always be bumps in the road, and expecting the supply chain to operate perfectly 100% of the time is not realistic. But now we can do away with poor assumptions in favor of actual product data collected in real time by IoT condition sensors. This data drives improved decision-making, providing growers, distributors and retailers alike with a better view into the freshness and quality of the food that is being harvested, shipped and displayed on store shelves.

By making use of the power of IoT and cloud analytics, growers, processors, distributors and retailers no longer have to accept the losses associated with food waste as the cost of doing business. By proactively managing their products through the supply chain, growers can improve profitability on the food they work so hard to produce, retailers can deliver a top-quality product to their customers, and consumers gain confidence in their purchases.

You can’t address an issue if you don’t know about it or only react to it after it has happened. IoT and cloud analytics can make the food supply chain proactive and enable growers, distributors and retailers to actively manage issues as they happen, preventing losses.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

Ecoark Invited to Host Investor Meetings at the 30th Annual ROTH Conference

Rogers, AR – February 12, 2018Ecoark Holdings, Inc. (“Ecoark”), dba Zest TechnologiesTM, (OTCQX: ZEST) today announced it has accepted an invitation to host investor meetings at the 30th Annual ROTH Conference, to be held March 11-13, 2018, at The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California.

About Ecoark Holdings, Inc.

Ecoark Holdings, Inc. dba Zest TechnologiesTM (OTCQX: ZEST) is focused on improving the agriculture and supply chain industries through innovative AgTech solutions for growers, processors, ranchers, restaurants and retail grocers. The Company offers a suite of proven solutions that address the $161 billion fresh food waste problem, improve delivered freshness, and provide true transparency for the fresh produce, meat and seafood supply chains. To learn more about Zest Labs, please click here. To watch a video about Zest Fresh, please click here.

Forward Looking Statement

This release contains forward-looking statements, including, without limitation, statements concerning the business and possible or assumed future results of operations of Zest Labs; and statements concerning the ability of Zest Labs’ technology to improve delivered quality consistency, significantly reduce perishable food waste, drive sustainability, and increase efficiency in the industry. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements for many reasons including: access to growth capital on favorable terms; adverse economic changes affecting markets we serve; competition in our markets and industry segments; our timing and the profitability of entering new markets; greater than expected costs, customer acceptance of our products or difficulties related to our integration of the businesses we may acquire; and other risks and uncertainties as may be detailed from time to time in our public announcements and SEC filings. Although we believe the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, they relate only to events as of the date on which the statements are made, and our future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements may not meet these expectations. We do not intend to update any of the forward-looking statements after the date of this document to conform these statements to actual results or to changes in our expectations, except as required by law.

Contacts:
Investor Relations:
John Mills
ICR
646-277-1254
John.Mills@icrinc.com

Public Relations:
Keith Watson
fama PR
617-986-5001
ecoark@famapr.com

Zest Labs Joins the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology

Company Continues to Invest in Collaboration with Growers to Solve Industry Challenges

San Jose, Calif. – January 3, 2018 Zest Labs™, a subsidiary of Ecoark Holdings, Inc. (“Ecoark”) (OTCQX: ZEST), today announced that it has become a member of the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology (WGCIT) in Salinas, Calif., operated by Western Growers.

The WGCIT was created to help identify priorities in the agriculture industry, discover technologies to address those priorities, set up testing, facilitate industry feedback and communicate progress to fresh produce farmers in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

“The goal of the Center of Innovation and Technology is to help identify and accelerate innovative technology solutions that will benefit growers and handlers and their customers,” said Hank Giclas, Western Growers’ Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning, Science and Technology. “We are excited to welcome Zest Labs to the WGCIT and look forward to the value the company will bring to the Center and Western Growers members, as well as providing our insights to Zest Labs.”

Zest Labs’ Zest Fresh™ solution is the only freshness management solution proven to significantly improve freshness consistency for consumers and reduce waste for retailers by leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) to autonomously track and report in real time on the freshness of products from harvest to retail.

Zest Labs is at the forefront of modernizing the fresh food supply chain through real-time monitoring at the pallet level, and is committed to driving industry innovation. Of note, Zest Labs recently announced integrated blockchain support at no additional cost or labor for growers and shippers using Zest Fresh, as well as launching its Produce Advisory Board to gather insight and perspective from the produce grower community.

By joining the WGCIT, Zest Labs will be able to collaborate with other members and gain input from growers on the industry problems they’re facing. In turn, Zest Labs can support growers and fresh produce farmers in understanding and implementing technology solutions that directly address their challenges.

“The agriculture industry is facing a multitude of challenges, but only through collective efforts will we be able to solve them,” said Peter Mehring, CEO of Zest Labs. “The Zest Labs team is looking forward to joining the WGCIT, expanding our footprint with growers across California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, and sharing our knowledge of the fresh food supply chain.”

About Zest Labs Zest Labs, a subsidiary of Ecoark Holdings, Inc., provides a growing suite of freshness management solutions that substantially improve quality consistency and drive sustainability for a wide range of clients. Zest Labs provides solutions to modernize the existing food distribution and delivery system by significantly increasing efficiency through continuous condition monitoring and real-time prescriptive analytics.

To learn more about Zest Labs, please click here. To watch a video about Zest Fresh, please click here.

About Ecoark Holdings Inc.

Founded in 2011, Ecoark is an AgTech company modernizing the post-harvest fresh food supply chain for a wide range of organizations including growers, distributors and retailers. The company’s Zest Fresh™ solution, a breakthrough approach to quality management of post-harvest fresh food, is specifically designed to help substantially reduce the $161 billion amount of food loss the U.S. experiences each year. Through item-level monitoring and real-time predictive analytics, Zest Fresh enables customers to improve the freshness and quality of produce, realize substantial cost savings and reduce food waste. To learn more about Zest Fresh click here.

Forward Looking Statements

This release contains forward-looking statements, including, without limitation, statements concerning the business and possible or assumed future results of operations of Zest Labs; and statements concerning the ability of Zest Labs’ technology to improve delivered quality consistency, significantly reduce perishable food waste, drive sustainability, and increase efficiency in the industry. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements for many reasons including: access to growth capital on favorable terms; adverse economic changes affecting markets we serve; competition in our markets and industry segments; our timing and the profitability of entering new markets; greater than expected costs, customer acceptance of our products or difficulties related to our integration of the businesses we may acquire; and other risks and uncertainties as may be detailed from time to time in our public announcements and SEC filings. Although we believe the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, they relate only to events as of the date on which the statements are made, and our future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements may not meet these expectations. We do not intend to update any of the forward-looking statements after the date of this document to conform these statements to actual results or to changes in our expectations, except as required by law.

Contact

Investor Relations:
John Mills
ICR
646-277-1254
John.Mills@icrinc.com

Public Relations:
Keith Watson
fama PR
617-986-5001
ecoark@famapr.com

Blockchain + IoT: Creating True Transparency Within The Food Supply Chain

Today’s food supply chain landscape is becoming increasingly dynamic. Non-traditional retailers like Amazon are disrupting the grocery business. Consumers are increasingly interested and invested in where their food comes from. Manufacturers are as much responsible for the quality of food as growers are. But one thing about the fresh food supply chain has remained consistent: mistakes in the handling or distribution of food — resulting in recalls or foodborne illness outbreaks — have the potential to irreparably damage brand reputation and the bottom line.

Can new technologies help?

To date, there has been limited technological innovation with the potential to transform how retailers and manufacturers deal with recalls or outbreaks. For the most part, dealing with foodborne illnesses and safety recalls has simply been reactive. When an issue occurs, you try to deal with it as best as you can, but the costs — including the time and resources spent trying to figure out where the outbreak or mishandling stemmed from, the collateral damage (i.e. food waste) of recalling products that aren’t contaminated and the brand/customer loyalty fallout that often follows — can batter your bottom line.

The Transparency Challenge

The CDC estimates that 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States. And, according to the USDA, nearly 60 million pounds of food was recalled in 2016 alone. That’s a lot. But the history of food, in addition to the increase in food safety and quality regulations, gives us an indication of how we got to this point.

Consumers’ eating habits have drastically changed throughout the years, and with those habits brings new consumer demands and expectations. Traditionally, fresh food was grown, harvested and eaten all in a highly local environment. Now, thanks to consumer demands for having year-round availability of their favorite foods — particularly produce — our food supply chains span thousands of miles, meaning multiple days of handling starting from the growers and suppliers through to the grocery stores.

With this new reality, and the increase in players along the supply chain, transparency has become both incredibly difficult and increasingly important. While there are efforts to move back to a “farm-to-table” mentality, today’s supply chain still includes multiple manufacturing and shipping partners in between the farm and the consumer. The more food changes hands, the greater chance of mishandling, temperature discrepancies and more — all of which increase the risk for foodborne illness outbreaks and major food recalls.

If manufacturers and retailers had the tools to achieve “true transparency” throughout the entire fresh food supply chain, along with access to every link in the chain, everyone involved (including consumers) could have complete visibility into where food has been and if it has been handled and distributed correctly.

What if there was a way to enable food manufacturers and retailers to more quickly and accurately identify the source or sources of contamination? Further, what if there was the potential to improve delivered freshness and more easily identify problems before a product reached the consumer?

Achieving True Transparency with Blockchain and IoT

A foodborne illness outbreak or recall can be a manufacturer’s or retailer’s worst nightmare. But implementing a proactive solution for managing food safety — instead of relying on reactive responses — is easier than most would think, thanks to technology that exists today.

The first step in achieving true transparency is being able to gather the right data about the product at the pallet level. Studies have shown that the pallet is where variation occurs, not at the lot or trailer level. And, what’s important is monitoring the condition of the product, not the components of the supply chain such as the temperature of the pre-cooler or trailer.

We need to start in the field with the product at harvest, and then track its temperature and time throughout the supply chain. Did the broccoli sit out in the sun for multiple hours at the pack house, causing the chances of pathogen growth to increase? Was the cut/bagged lettuce washed and tested? We need to know its processing. Finally, we need to know the logistics at the distribution center and where the produce was shipped to. Implementing IoT sensors at the pallet level, and automatically collecting its data along every step of the supply chain from harvest or production through to the retailer is critical.

The second step for true transparency then becomes: what do manufacturers and retailers do with that data? Of course, there is immense value in collecting quality-focused data on its own, but blockchain is emerging as an important enabling technology to take IoT data and make it completely transparent, delivering security and trust across the supply chain. Blockchain takes the concept of a transaction ledger and brings it into the digital age through a continuous list of records (otherwise known as blocks) linked together and secured using cryptography. From a food quality and safety perspective, blockchain makes it easier to track a product’s journey through the supply chain and log data points about key safety and quality information at every stage.

Blockchain can enable us to be proactively notified of non-compliant product through smart contracts, and include pointers to relevant data about each pallet of product. Through the combination of blockchain and the data collected from IoT sensors, growers, distributors and retailers will be able to automate decisions through smart contracts to address food safety issues, identify and implement solutions for recurring problems, and — in the case of foodborne illnesses or recalls — proactively identify and remove products that are at elevated risk of contamination based on handling history. This means that manufacturers and retailers have the potential to eliminate products at risk before they even reach the consumer, reducing the issues that come from issuing a recall — including cost, consumer safety, damaged brand reputations and decreased customer loyalty.

While there isn’t a silver bullet when it comes to eliminating foodborne illnesses or contamination recalls, by implementing a solution using IoT and blockchain technologies in tandem, growers, processors and retailers have the potential to more efficiently track produce handling and quality, and make educated, proactive decisions about what food should (and shouldn’t) make it into consumers’ homes.

True transparency is the key to not only becoming a trusted partner in today’s dynamic food supply chain industry, but also meeting increasingly high consumer demands. The right application of IoT and blockchain can transform the supply chain, enabling manufacturers and retailers to have a shot at succeeding at both.

Ecoark Holdings Inc. Announces OTCQX Stock Symbol Change to ZEST

ROGERS, Ark.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Ecoark Holdings, Inc. (“Ecoark”) (OTCQX: EARK), to be renamed Zest Technologies, Inc., an AgTech company, today announced that FINRA has allowed a change in the Company’s stock symbol trading on the OTC Markets. Effective tomorrow, November 30, 2017, the Company’s common shares will commence trading on the OTC Markets under the symbol “ZEST” (OTCQX: ZEST). Outstanding stock certificates will not be affected by the symbol change and will not need to be exchanged. All stock trading, filings and market-related information will be reported under the new stock symbol.

The Company will seek approval to formally change its name from Ecoark Holdings, Inc. to Zest Technologies, Inc. at the next annual shareholder meeting in the first half of 2018.

“Our new trading symbol is a step in the previously announced new corporate strategy of repositioning the Company from Ecoark, a diversified holding company, to Zest Technologies, Inc., an AgTech company focused solely on its Zest Labs asset,” stated Randy May, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “This change is just one of many announcements we will be making as we continue on our mission of modernizing the fresh food supply chain.”

About Ecoark Holdings Inc. and Zest Labs

Ecoark is an AgTech company modernizing the post-harvest fresh food supply chain for a wide range of organizations including growers, distributors and retailers. The company’s Zest Fresh™ solution, a breakthrough approach to quality management of post-harvest fresh food, is specifically designed to help substantially reduce the $161 billion amount of food loss the U.S. experiences each year. Through item-level monitoring and real-time predictive analytics, Zest Fresh enables customers to improve the freshness and quality of produce, realize substantial cost savings and reduce food waste. To learn more about Zest Fresh click here.

Forward Looking Statement

This release contains forward-looking statements, including, without limitation, statements concerning business and possible or assumed future results of operations of Ecoark Holdings, Inc. and its subsidiaries; and statements concerning the ability of Zest Labs’ technology to improve delivered quality consistency, significantly reduce perishable food waste, drive sustainability, and increase efficiency in the industry. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements for many reasons including: access to growth capital on favorable terms; adverse economic changes affecting markets we serve; competition in our markets and industry segments; our timing and the profitability of entering new markets; greater than expected costs, customer acceptance of our products or difficulties related to our integration of the businesses we may acquire; and other risks and uncertainties as may be detailed from time to time in our public announcements and SEC filings. Although we believe the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, they relate only to events as of the date on which the statements are made, and our future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements may not meet these expectations. We do not intend to update any of the forward-looking statements after the date of this document to conform these statements to actual results or to changes in our expectations, except as required by law.

Contacts

Investor Relations:
ICR, Inc.
John Mills, 646-277-1254
Managing Partner
John.Mills@icrinc.com
or
Public Relations:
fama PR
Keith Watson, 617-986-5001
ecoark@famapr.com